top of page

What to Expect From an EMDR Therapy Session

Talk therapy is widely used, with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) being one of the most common types. It aims to dissect your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to find new perspectives and alter thought patterns. However, CBT isn't effective for everyone. If talk therapy hasn't worked for you, you might want to consider EMDR therapy, or Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing.

EMDR therapy differs significantly from CBT because it involves minimal talking but requires trained and qualified clinical facilitation for sustainable results. It adopts a bottom-up approach, leveraging your existing resources and processing trauma through bilateral stimulation. This method uniquely utilises the brain's biological mechanisms to help process traumatic events.

What Is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy is a type of trauma therapy that involves bilateral brain stimulation, alternately activating each side in a continuous pattern. This can be done by listening to bleeps alternating between right and left ears while focusing on a traumatic event. The technique has evolved to include visual or tactile stimulations such as tapping, hand buzzers, flashing lights or following a light bar.

The concept of EMDR is inspired by REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, during which your eyes move back and forth to create bilateral stimulation, processing life events and storing memories. EMDR applies this physical strategy to specific traumatic events, aiming to desensitise distressing emotions and reprocess negative beliefs.

How Does EMDR Therapy Work?

EMDR therapy can help rewire the brain and process unresolved trauma, potentially speeding up the therapeutic process. Some clients notice improvements after just one session after the initial assessments and stabilisation processes have been noted. Unlike traditional talk therapies, EMDR doesn't require clients to verbalise their traumatic experiences, which can be beneficial for those who find it difficult or impossible to discuss their trauma.

Effectiveness of EMDR Therapy

Research has demonstrated EMDR therapy's effectiveness for various mental health issues, particularly PTSD. A 2014 review found substantial evidence supporting EMDR's efficacy in treating emotional trauma and other adverse life experiences, with some studies finding it to be quicker and more effective than trauma-focused CBT.

Other studies indicate EMDR's effectiveness in treating depression. A 2015 study revealed that 68 percent of patients receiving inpatient care for depression achieved full remission after an average of four to five EMDR sessions over approximately 46 days. These patients reported fewer depression-related issues and relapses a year later. EMDR has also shown effectiveness in treating panic disorder, comparable to cognitive behavioural therapy.

What Happens During an EMDR Session?

EMDR therapy involves an eight-phase process:

1. History Taking and Treatment Planning: The therapist will gather information about your background and reasons for seeking treatment through questions and questionnaires. You'll set treatment goals together.

2. Preparation: The therapist explains the EMDR process, helps develop coping strategies for potential side effects, and addresses any questions or concerns. This phase is essential for building rapport and trust.

3. Assessment: You'll discuss the target memory for reprocessing, often the first or most distressing traumatic memory. Key aspects such as images, beliefs, feelings, and sensations are explored, and a baseline measurement of distress is taken. A positive belief to replace the negative one is also identified.

4. Desensitisation: Bilateral stimulation begins to reprocess and desensitise the target memory. The therapist monitors your emotional state and intervenes minimally.

5. Installation: The positive belief is reinforced using bilateral stimulation until it feels true.

6. Body Scan: You hold the target memory and positive belief in your mind while scanning your body for any remaining disturbances, which are processed if found.

7. Closure: This phase returns you to a state of emotional regulation and calmness before ending the session. Grounding techniques help contain processed events.

8. Re-evaluation: At the beginning of the next session, the therapist checks in to assess the level of disturbance around the target memory and the strength of the new positive beliefs.

Tips for EMDR Therapy

- It's normal to feel anxious. Communicate your concerns with your therapist, who can help you develop coping strategies.

- During EMDR, you remain fully awake, alert, and in control. Inform your therapist if you need to pause.

- There is no right or wrong way to respond to EMDR. Stay open-minded and allow your mind to process naturally.

Potential Side Effects and Risks of EMDR Therapy

While EMDR therapy can be highly beneficial, there are possible side effects, including:

- Increased disturbing memories or emotions

- More disturbing dreams

- Heightened emotional sensitivity

- Fatigue, which can last for a few days

- Feeling overwhelmed by emotions

Your therapist should ensure you have support and resources outside of therapy to manage these potential side effects.

Who Might Benefit From EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy can help individuals who have experienced a wide range of traumas, from significant traumatic events to less pronounced ones. Although initially developed for PTSD, it is now also used to treat anxiety, depression, phobias, sleep issues, complicated grief, addictions, and more, across all age groups.

However, EMDR is not suitable for everyone. Those with a history of dissociation, pregnancy, pre-existing medical conditions, ongoing legal proceedings, or a lack of a positive support system should discuss their circumstances with their clinician and medical provider to determine if EMDR is appropriate.

Some research suggests EMDR might affect the accuracy of your memory of the event being reprocessed. If you're involved in legal proceedings related to the target memory, discuss with your therapist and lawyers whether to proceed with EMDR.

If you choose to try EMDR therapy, be prepared for intense emotions and thoughts. Building a trusting relationship with your therapist is crucial. Take your time to find the right therapist for your needs before starting your EMDR journey.

•If you have any ideas or thoughts, we'd love to hear from you in the comments. Your experiences and perspectives can help others on their own journey to inner peace•

0 views0 comments


bottom of page